From why to what and how…

It has been three months since I heard the doctor say, “You have breast cancer.” I think for most people when faced with a difficult diagnosis, major life struggle, or big disappointment the “why” questions come pretty quickly. “Why is this happening to me?” “Why now when life was going well?” “Why GOD are you allowing this?” “Why do some people get healed miraculously but not others?” “Why do people who put their trust in God, still die early deaths?” “Why is there so much suffering?” But as the days turned into weeks, I found the why questions just left me frustrated and in a negative mood.

A helpful shift for me was to start asking “what” questions. “What can I do during this time to encourage others as they face struggles?” “What are the hidden blessings in the midst of all this?” “What is GOD’S purpose for me in this?” “What lessons can I learn now that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise?” This shift in thinking has given me resolve and determination. Now I am energized instead of frustrated. Living in the what has been so much better than living in the why!

Another shift for me has been to the “how” questions. “How is God going to fulfill His promises to me?” “How is God going to be glorified in this time of struggle?” “How can I make the most of this time?” “How will I be different when this is all over?” I think the how questions are the most exciting. Instead of frustrated, I am expectant and hopeful.

I am not an expert theologian, but as I read God’s Word I think the Lord is eager for conversations with us. He longs for us to spend to time with Him and chat like we would with a good friend. I also think it is fair to ask God questions and even complain about our circumstances. I love the Psalms for that! But if the questions we ask lead us to a negative and bitter place, perhaps we need to ask different questions.

“This is what the Lord says–the Holy One of Israel, and its maker; Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled the starry hosts.”  Isaiah 45:11

I have for many years said to my students and my clients, “We are not in heaven yet, we can’t expect it to be perfect.” We are all part of the brokenness of humanity and will suffer many kinds of struggles in our lives. I think Peter said it best, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

I have chemo this afternoon and because it is a new drug, I don’t know how my body will react. I had lots of questions for my doctor about this. But this morning I will spend time questioning God and I know He has all the answers.

What questions are you asking today? 


27 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anita
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 17:06:42

    Erin, Your testimony is so inspiring and you have encouraged me in so many ways. Thank you! I will be praying for you today. Lord, be so close to Erin today that she can hear your heartbeat. Give her body and mind what it needs to be strong in this time. She is yours Lord and I know she walks in your path, hold her hand today. Amen


  2. Carol
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 17:22:58

    I pray you will feel God’s presence with you this afternoon. When I read your post today, I realized I can answer some of the questions you asked — at least from my perspective. For example “What can I do during this time to encourage others as they face struggles?” and “How is God going to be glorified in this time of struggle?” I think it is odd actually, that I look forward to reading what you post. One would think – “Oh, how depressing to read about someone’s suffering.” Yet, I have experienced God’s encouragement and blessing through your sharing of your struggles. It is as if God takes something so awful and gives you strength by giving you the ability to see things through a different set of lenses. I would venture to say it is seeing things through the lens of His Spirit. Because you have yielded yourself to Him in this incredibly difficult situation – it inspires me, and I am sure others, to draw to close to Him in the midst of our struggles, so we too can experience His truth and comfort. God Bless You Erin! You are often in my thoughts and prayers. Sending hugs!


    • erinambrose
      Jul 30, 2012 @ 18:08:25

      Your words lifted me up today!! God can make beauty from ashes and I am so thankful for all He continues to show me in the midst of this difficult time. Blessings to you and your family!! Hugs back to ya 🙂


  3. northerneaglet
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 17:52:11

    I like lemonade made with fresh lemons, sugar, and ice cold water! I think your “how” questions relate to what to do when we’re given lemons. Looking at situations through celestial spectacles IS exciting. God can make lemonade out of any situation if we proceed in expectation and that’s what you are doing. Wonderful thoughts and appreciation going your way from me.


  4. Michael Oehler
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 18:38:55

    Erin –

    Great counsel and advice . . . inspired as always!! The “what” and “how” questions are exactly what I need to be asking . . . thank you!!

    We love you. Keep up the good fight.

    Prayers and hugs,

    Mike, Jena and the boys


  5. Carole Patterson
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 00:01:56

    Praying this next few months are filled with abundant, unexplainable peace, deep, overwhelming joy, and an intimacy with God that rivals anything you have ever experienced before:) Love u Erin!


    • erinambrose
      Jul 30, 2012 @ 18:13:06

      I am so thankful for your support and prayers as I walk through this. God is so good to give me such a wonderful church family. Love and hugs to you!


  6. Wayne Augden
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 00:13:16


    Touching, and insightful. Inspiring beyond words. Be assured that God is already answering some of those questions you asked through your writing of this blog. I pray that God will grant you the peace, strength and courage to face your daily challenges, and that you might meet them in such a way as be a great witness to His faithfulness and love. You have certainly been that in the posts I’ve read. I will continue to keep you in my prayers.


    • erinambrose
      Jul 30, 2012 @ 18:15:04

      Thank you for your kind words, for your prayers, for your encouragement, for taking the time to read my blog, and for standing with me in faith. I am truly blessed to have such support!!


  7. Jenayu
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 01:48:17

    So silly, I know, but I’ll be asking God why it has to be so hot during the summer..and why we can’t have more cool breezes to ward off the heat.
    Praying for you and yours as you go over your halfway mark! Keep going strong, Erin! You’re an inspiration to do many 🙂 God will give you te freedom from this that you long for.

    For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17 NLT)


    • erinambrose
      Jul 30, 2012 @ 18:18:15

      You have been so wonderful in continuing to walk with me in this battle. God gives me more than I could ever hope for or imagine. Blessings to you and your family.

      p.s. I hope you are enjoying some fun in this last month before school starts again! 🙂


  8. Deena Frosaker
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 18:26:41

    What wonderful news about the tumor! I’m walking our Relay for Life and I’ll be dedicating my time on the track to you and your recovery so that you can do a lap next year (if you choose) with the survivors’ group. It’s always so inspirational…as are your insights.


    • erinambrose
      Jul 30, 2012 @ 18:20:20

      I am honored you would dedicate your walk in the relay for me. Thank you for supporting such a good cause!! I WILL be walking with the survivors’ group next year!!


  9. Reality Of Christ
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 01:04:23

    I will say a prayer for you my blogger friend as you head into chemo. May God be with you.


  10. Bees Knees Photography LLC
    Jul 31, 2012 @ 00:16:51

    Erin, your insight and your positive attitude shine through in your writing! I have no doubt that this aids in your healing. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and I saw how difficult all of the treatments were for her at times. If you don’t mind, I would also like to say a few prayers for your healing and to let God’s light shine through on you. I look forward to reading more and more about your healing.
    God Bless,


    • erinambrose
      Jul 31, 2012 @ 03:56:21

      Thank you so much for reading my blog and for your encouraging words. I am so happy to hear of your mother’s victory over cancer!! I look forward to joining her in the survivor’s circle 🙂 My sincere and deepest thanks for your prayers.


  11. brettbatten
    Aug 08, 2012 @ 14:22:17

    Inspiring! Thank you.


  12. The Presents of Presence
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 23:58:25

    I will keep you in my prayers Erin…He has a plan for you my dear and part of it is inspiring others through your journey…keep writing, keep loving and keep smiling. You are here and that’s the best part! xo ❤


  13. Laura Renegar
    Sep 16, 2012 @ 01:47:22

    Great blog posts ! I also found the breast cancer battle much easier to get through when I focused on helping others instead of focusing on myself. Some days were easier than others to do that – especially when I couldn’t walk due to BONE PAIN. I understand what you are describing and so glad that the bone pain is behind you now and you are moving forward and putting your life back in order. It is a long process. I was dx 3/1/11 and am still not completely done with reconstruction. But, all will come in due time. His time – not mine. Right now I am too busy working and volunteering to worry about my finaly stages of reconstruction. Just too busy! Love your blog, love your faith, love your posts.


    • erinambrose
      Sep 16, 2012 @ 02:39:00

      Hi Laura,
      Thanks so much for your warm encouragement. I really appreciate hearing your story of triumph and take much comfort from you who has walked this path before me. I will have my surgery next month and know I still have a long road ahead of me but trust God to be with me and carry me through.


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